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APPLICATIONS OF BLOOD GROUP SYSTEMS AND DNA FINGER


PRINTINGS
ARISE, R. O. (Ph. D)
Department of Biochemistry,
University of Ilorin, Ilorin, Nigeria
INTRODUCTION
Blood is the red viscid fluid filling the heart and blood vessels. It consists of a
colourless fluid, known as the plasma, in which are suspended the red blood cells or
erythrocytes, the white cell or leucocytes, and the platelets, or thromobocytes. The
plasma contains a great many substances in solution including factors which enable the
blood to clot. The normal composition of blood is 55% plasma and 45% cells. The red
blood cells are small, flat and plate-like in shape, with a rim round the edge, and a hollow
in the middle. In each cubic millimeter of blood, there are approximately 5.5 million red
blood cells (RBC). The RBC does not have a nucleus. The life of a red blood cell is about
four months. The blood provides a transport system connecting all parts of the body with
all cells in the tissues. The blood transports oxygen from the lungs to all parts of the
body. It also transports digested food particles such as amino acids and glucose to the
liver and consequently to the circulatory system. The blood also helps to transport
excretory products such as water, carbon dioxide, and urea.
Blood group is a characteristic of an individual's red blood cells, defined in terms of
specific substances (carbohydrates and proteins) on the cell membrane while DNA
fingerprinting is a very quick way to compare shorter DNA sequence of any two living
organisms. More realistically, knowledge of DNA sequences and blood groups can prove
useful in identification projects. These include reuniting families torn apart by war or by
the actions of repressive regimes, identifying corpses, checking paternity, and most
commonly, investigating and prosecuting crimes. Forensic uses of blood groupings and
DNA finger printing technology inspires great hope but arouses considerable
controversy.
BLOOD GROUP SYSTEMS
The two most important classifications to describe blood types in humans are ABO
and the Rhesus factor (Rh factor). There are 46 other known types (antigens) in humans,
most of which are much rarer than ABO and Rh. Blood transfusions from incompatible
groups can cause an immunological transfusion reaction, resulting in hemolytic anemia,
renal failure, shock, and death. When a patient has suffered a severe loss of blood, a
blood transfusion is given to make up the quantity of blood lost. Blood transfusion is the
intravenous replacement of lost or destroyed blood by compatible citrated human blood.
The blood given in the transfusion must be of the correct type, called a BLOOD GROUP;
otherwise the tissues reject the new blood by forming a clot. Tissues generally reject any
foreign body (antigen) and a transfusion of blood can, if of the wrong groups, be taken as
an antigen. The ABO blood types also exist among chimpanzees and bonobos. Blood
type is determined by the antigens (epitopes) on the surface of a red blood cell. Some of
these are proteins, while others are proteins with polysaccharides attached. The absence

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of some of these markers leads to production of antibodies against this marker.
Administration of the wrong blood type would lead to immediate destruction of the
infused blood. The breakdown products cause acute medical illness; hence, it is of, quite
literally, vital importance that the blood types of the donor and receptor are properly
matched.
Austrian scientist Karl Landsteiner is widely credited with the discovery of the
main blood type system (ABO) in 1901; he was awarded the Nobel Prize in Physiology
or Medicine in 1930 for his work. Landsteiner described A, B, and O. Landsteiner
and Wiener also discovered the second most important antigen set, the Rhesus system, in
1937. It is named after the Rhesus monkey, in which the factor was first identified by
Karl Landsteiner and Wiener. The phrases "blood group" and "blood type" are often used
interchangeably, although this is not technically correct. "Blood group" is used to refer
specifically to a person's ABO status, while "blood type" refers to both ABO and Rh
factors.
THE ABO SYSTEM
There are four groups in the ABO blood grouping system; they include blood
group A, B, AB and O. The cells of these groups contain the corresponding
antigens, A, B, & A and B except group O cells which contain neither antigen A nor B.
In the plasma there are agglutinins which will cause agglutination of any cell carrying the
corresponding antigen.
Blood group A: This group contains antigen A in their blood cells and antibody anti-B in
their plasma. People with blood group A can receive and give blood to people
with blood group A only (provided they are compatible for Rh factor).
Blood Group B: This group contains antigen B in their blood cells and antibody anti-A
in their plasma. People with blood group B can receive and give blood to people
with blood group B only (provided they are compatible for Rh factor)
Blood Group AB: This group contains both antigens A and B in their blood cells and
none of the antibodies in their plasma. People with blood group AB are known
as universal recipients as they can receive blood from any person belonging to
any of the ABO group (with matching rhesus status). Thus people with AB blood
type can receive blood from people with blood group A, B, AB or O
(however, compatibility with other antigens like rhesus needs to be matched).
Blood Group O: This group contains none of the antigen (A or B in their blood cells
but contain both the antibodies (anti A and anti-B) in their plasma. People with
blood group O are known as universal donors as they can donate their blood
to a person belonging to any of the ABO group (with matching rhesus status).
Thus people with O blood type can donate blood to people with blood group
A, B AB or O (however, compatibility with other antigens like rhesus
needs to be matched).
Overall, the O blood type is the most common blood type in the world, although
in some areas, such as Sweden and Norway, the A group dominates. The A antigen is
overall more common than the B antigen. Since the AB blood type requires the
presence of both A and B antigens, the AB blood type is the rarest of the ABO blood
types. There are known racial and geographic distributions of the ABO blood types.

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According to Benes in 1993, it can be partly attributed to the relation among blood types
and particular illnesses: apparently, certain blood types give greater (or lesser) resistance
to various diseases. For instance, type O people have lessened resistance to the Black
Plague, and therefore type O is less common in European populations. This ABO
grouping system is determined by testing a suspension of red cells with anti-A and anti-B
serum or testing serum with known cells.
THE RHESUS BLOOD GROUP
In rhesus blood grouping, the red cells contain four pairs of antigens which are
known by the letters Cc, Dd, Ee and Ff. The letters denote allelomorphic genes which
are present in all cells except the sex cells where a chromosome can carry C or c, but not
both. In this way, the Rhesus genes and blood groups are derived equally from each
parent. When the cells contain only the cde groups, then the blood is said to be Rhesus
negative (Rh -ve); when the cells contain C, D or E singly or in combination with cde,
then the blood is Rhesus positive (Rh +ve). These groups are antigenic and can, under
suitable conditions produce the corresponding antibody in the serum. These antibodies
are then used to detect the presence of Rh groups in cells. Matching the Rhesus factor is
very important, as mismatching (an Rh positive donor to an Rh negative recipient) may
cause the production in the recipient of an antibody to the Rh(D) antigen, which could
lead to subsequent haemolysis. This is of particular importance in females of or below
childbearing age, where any subsequent pregnancy may be affected by the antibody
produced. For one-off transfusions, particularly in older males, the use of Rh(D) positive
blood in an Rh(D) negative individual (who has no atypical red cell antibodies) may be
indicated if it is necessary to conserve Rh(D) negative stocks for more appropriate use.
The converse is not true: Rh +ve patients do not react to Rh -ve blood.
Rh disease occurs when an Rh negative mother who has already had an Rh
positive child (or an accidental Rh +ve blood transfusion) carries another Rh positive
child. After the first pregnancy, the mother develops IgG antibodies against Rh +ve red
blood cells, which can cross the placenta and hemolyse the red cells of the second child.
This reaction does not always occur, and is less likely to occur if the child carries either
the A or B antigen and the mother does not. In the past, Rh incompatibility could
result in stillbirth, or in death of the mother, or both. Rh incompatibility was until
recently the most common cause of long term disability in the United States. At first, this
was treated by transfusing the blood of infants who survived. At present, it can be treated
with certain anti-Rh +ve antisera, the most common of which is Rhogam (anti-D). It can
be anticipated by determining the blood type of every child of an RhD -ve mother; if it is
Rh +ve, the mother is treated with anti-D to prevent development of antibodies against
Rh +ve red blood cells.
USES OF ABO AND RHESUS BLOOD GROUPS
a. Transfusion
The blood donated by healthy persons is tested to ensure that the level of hemoglobin
is satisfactory and that there is no risk of transmitting certain diseases, such as AIDS or

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hepatitis. It is then fractionated (split) into its component parts, particularly red cells,
plasma, and platelets. Correct matching for the ABO system is vital. The most important
blood group systems for transfusion of red cells are ABO and Rh. Persons who have
either of the red cell antigens (A and B) have antibody present in their serum of the type
that will oppose an antigen of its opposite nature; for example, group A blood contains
A antigens on red cell surfaces and anti-B antibodies in the surrounding serum. On the
other hand, O group individuals lack both the A and the B antigen and thus have both
anti-A and anti-B in their serum. If these antibodies combine with the appropriate
antigen, the result is hemolytic transfusion reaction and possibly death. Red cell
transfusions must therefore be ABO compatible. The blood groups A and B have various
subgroups (e.g., A1, A2, A3, and B1, B2, and B3). The only common subgroups that are
likely to affect red cell transfusions are the subgroups of A.
Potential donors are also tested for some of the antigens of the Rh system, since it is
essential to know whether they are Rh-positive or Rh-negative. Rh-negative indicates the
absence of the D antigen. Rh-negative persons transfused with Rh-positive blood will
make anti-D antibodies from 50 to 75 percent of the time. Antibody made in response to
a foreign red cell antigen is usually not harmful but does require subsequent transfusions
to be antigen-negative. Rh-positive blood should never be given to Rh-negative females
before or during the childbearing age unless Rh negative blood is not available and the
transfusion is lifesaving. If such a woman subsequently became pregnant with an Rhpositive fetus, she might form anti-Rh antibody, even though the pregnancy was the first,
and the child might develop erythroblastosis fetalis (hemolytic disease of the newborn).
b. Organ transplants
The ABO antigens are widely distributed throughout the tissues of the body.
Therefore, when organs such as kidneys are transplanted, most surgeons prefer to use
organs that are matched to the recipient's with respect to the ABO antigen system,
although the occasional survival of a grafted ABO-incompatible kidney has occurred.
The remaining red cell antigen systems are not relevant in organ transplantation.
c. Paternity testing
Although blood group studies cannot be used to prove paternity, they can provide
unequivocal evidence that a male is not the father of a particular child. Since the red cell
antigens are inherited as dominant traits, a child cannot have a blood group antigen that is
not present in one or both parents. For example, if the child in question belongs to group
A and both the mother and the putative father are group O, the man is excluded from
paternity. Furthermore, if one parent is genetically homozygous for a particular
antigenthat is, has inherited the gene for it from both the grandfather and grandmother
of the childthen that antigen must appear in the blood of the child. For example, on the
MN system, a father whose phenotype is M and whose genotype is MM (in other words, a
man who is of blood type M and has inherited the characteristic from both parents) will
transmit an M allele to all his progeny. In medicolegal work it is important that the blood

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samples are properly identified. By using multiple red cell antigen systems and adding
additional studies on other blood types (HLA [human leukocyte antigen], red cell
enzymes, and plasma proteins), it is possible to state with a high degree of statistical
certainty that a particular male is the father.
d. Blood groups and disease
In some cases an increased incidence of a particular antigen seems to be associated
with a certain disease. Stomach cancer is more common in people of group A than in
those of groups O and B. Duodenal ulceration is more common in nonsecretors of ABH
substances than in secretors. For practical purposes, however, these statistical correlations
are unimportant. There are other examples that illustrate the importance of blood groups
to the normal functions of red cells.
DNA FINGERPRINTING TECHNOLOGY
Each person has a unique DNA fingerprint like the fingerprints that came into use
by detectives and police laboratory during the 1930s. Unlike conventional finger print
that occurs only on the finger tips and can be altered by surgery, a DNA fingerprint is the
same for every cell, tissue, and organ of a person. It cannot be altered by any known
treatment. Consequently, DNA fingerprinting is rapidly becoming the primary method for
identifying and distinguishing among individual human beings.
The characteristics of all living organisms including humans are essentially
determined by information contained within DNA (deoxyribonucleic acid) that they
inherit from their parents. The molecular structure of DNA can be imagined as a zipper
with each tooth represented by one of four letters (A, C, G or T), and with opposite teeth
forming one or two pairs, either A-T or G-C. The letters A, C, G and T stand for adenine,
cytosine, guanine and thymine, the basic building blocks of DNA
The information contained in DNA is determined primarily by the sequence of
letters along the zipper. For example, the sequence ACGCT represents different
information than the sequence AGTCC in the same way that the word POST has a
different meaning from STOP or POTS, even though they use the same letters. The
traits of a human being are the result of information contained in the DNA code.
The chemical structure of everyones DNA (or any animal) is the order of the
base pairs. There are so many million of base pairs in each persons DNA that every
person has different sequence. Using these sequences, every person could be identified
solely by the sequence of their base pairs. However, because there are also many millions
of base pairs, the task would be very time-consuming. Instead, scientists are able to use a
shorter method, because of repeating patterns in DNA. These patterns do not, however,
give an individual fingerprint, but they are able to determine whether two DNA
samples are from the same person, related people, or non-related people.
Living organisms that look different or have different characteristics also have
different DNA sequence. The more varied the organisms, the more varied the DNA
sequences. DNA fingerprinting is a very quick way to compare shorter DNA sequence of
any two living organisms. DNA fingerprinting is a laboratory procedure that requires six
steps:

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1. Isolation of DNA: DNA must be recovered from the cells or tissues of the body.
Only a small amount of tissue, (blood, hair, or skin) is needed. For example the
amount of DNA found at the root of one hair strand is usually sufficient.
2. Cutting, sizing and sorting: Special enzymes called restriction enzymes are used
to cut the DNA at specific places. For example, an enzyme called EcoR1, found
in bacteria, will cut DNA only when the sequence GAATTC occurs. The DNA
pieces are sorted according to size by a sieving technique called electrophoresis.
The DNA pieces are passed through a gel made from seaweed agarose (a jellylike product made from seaweed).
3. Transfer of DNA to nylon: The distribution of DNA pieces is transferred to a
nylon sheet by placing the sheet on the gel and soaking them overnight.
4. Probing: A radioactive genetic probe is used in a hybridization reaction with the
DNA in question.
5. Probing: Adding radioactive or coloured pobes to the nylon (nitrocellulose paper)
sheet produces a pattern called the DNA fingerprint. Each probe typically sticks
in only one or two specific places on the nylon sheet.
6. DNA fingerprint: The final DNA fingerprint is built by using several probes (510 or more) simultaneously.

a)

b)

c)

d)

USES OF DNA FINGERPRINTS


DNA fingerprints are useful in several applications of human health care
research and the justice system:
Diagnosis of inherited disorder: DNA fingerprinting is used to diagnose
inherited disorders in both parental and newborn babies in hospitals around the
world. These disorders may include cystic fibrosis, hemophilia, sickle cell
aenemia and others. Early detection of such disorders enables medical practioners
and the parents for proper treatment of the child. Genetic counselors use DNA
fingerprint information to help prospective parents understand the risks of having
an affected child and in their decision concerning affected pregnancies as well as
marriages.
Developing cures for inherited disorders: Research programmes aimed at
locating inherited disorders on the chromosomes depend on the information
contained in DNA fingerprint. By studying the DNA fingerprints of relatives who
have history of some particular disorder, or by comparing larger groups of people
with and without the disorder, it is possible to identify DNA patterns associated
with the disease in question. This is a necessary first step in designing and
eventual genetic cure for these disorders
Paternity and maternity: Because a person inherits his or her variable number
tandem repeats (VNTRs) from his/her parents, VNTR patterns can be used to
establish paternity and maternity. The patterns are so specific that a parental
VNTR pattern can be reconstructed even if only the childrens VNTR patterns are
known.
Criminal identification and forensic: DNA isolated from blood, hair, skin, cells
or other genetic evidence left at the scene of crime can be compared, through
VNTR patterns, with the DNA of a criminal suspect to determine guilt or

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innocence. VNTR patterns are also useful in establishing identity of a homicide
victim, either from DNA found as evidence or from the body itself.
e) Personal identification: The notion of using DNA fingerprints as a sort of
genetic bar code to identify individuals is likely to happen anytime in the nearest
future. The technology required to isolate, keep on file, and then analyze million
of much specified VNTR patterns is both expensive and impractical.
CONCLUSION
The successful applications of blood groups and DNA finger prints would
change the relations between criminals and victims in unpredictable ways.
Obviously, adding a powerful new weapon to the arsenal of the law will increase
rate of detection and conviction, removing dangerous people from circulationand, we should remember, it will also prove valuable in clearing the innocent. Yet
it will be naive to think that criminals will remain passive in the face of the new
technology, or that the prospect of inevitable capture and incarceration will stay
their hands. Helpful though blood groupings and DNA finger prints may be, it is
not a panacea.
References
Agre, P and Carton, J.P. (1991): Molecular biology of the Rh antigens. Blood
78:551-563.
Avent, N.D., Liu, W. and Warner, K.M. (1996): Immunochemical Analysis of the
human erythrocyte Rh polypeptide. J. Biol. Chem. 271: 14233- 14239.
Landsteiner, K. and Wiener, A.S. (1940): An agglutinable factor in human blood
recognized by immune sera for rhesus blood. Proc. Soc. Exp. Biol. Med. 43:223224.